AI can replace ‘repetitive’ jobs; upskilling workers key to prevent job loss, says e& CEO Hatem Dowidar

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Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO of e& (previously known as Etisalat), speaking at the World Government Summit on Wednesday in Dubai
Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: While AI could replace repetitive jobs such as data collection, governments and companies can prevent job loss by upskilling workers to interpret AI-generated data, said Group CEO of e& (previously known as Etisalat) Hatem Dowidar said at the World Government Summit on Wednesday.

“There will be a period when AI will become a trusted assistant, increasing productivity for many people. However, it may impact repetitive jobs like data collection that requires little to no decision-making,” Dowidar told CNN anchor Becky Anderson during a conversation that discussed ‘meritocracy in the digital world’.

Workers must upskill to handle decision-making and interpret AI-generated data to avoid job loss. While there will be some impact on jobs, proactive skilling efforts can mitigate it, said Dowidar.

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Proving an example, Dowadir said: “In public areas with CCTV, previously, human observation was crucial. Now, AI advancements allow real-time analysis. For instance, AI can detect suspicious activities, like someone leaving luggage unattended.”

Although AI reduces the need for human monitoring, there’s still a role for humans to respond to alarms and make decisions, explained the CEO.

Dowidar said AI is an intelligent assistant that enhances human capabilities without complete replacement. “Even at e&, in the past, we provided connectivity; now, we offer platforms and AI services alongside it.”

AI at e&

On Wednesday, the tech company posted a 3 per cent rise in 2023 profit on robust economic growth. Over recent years, e& has transitioned from solely a telecom provider to positioning itself as a technology company, embracing AI as a fundamental component of its strategy.

“Like many companies, we acknowledge the inevitability of AI. It has shifted from a question of whether to implement it to how. The spotlight on AI has grown, especially with user-friendly tools emerging,” he said.

Dowidar said internally, e& has restructured and emphasized talent acquisition to ensure they are equipped for the future.

AI-ready workforce

Dowidar said preparing the workforce for AI involves two primary strategies at e&. The company has initiated a graduate AI program, bringing in top graduates for a year of rotation across different departments to understand AI applications.

“Simultaneously, they undergo courses with leading universities. Secondly, the company focuses on reskilling existing employees, from executives to middle management, through a blend of physical and online courses,” he said.

The emphasis is on making AI accessible to all, irrespective of coding expertise, fostering a skilled and confident workforce in the evolving AI landscape.